Diana's 'Panorama' interview led 'straight to the night in Paris', former private secretary says

Watch: Lord Hall ‘looking forward’ to inquiry on Diana interview

Princess Diana’s former private secretary has said the Panorama interview she did in 1995 led “straight to the night in Paris” where she died two years later.

Patrick Jephson, who worked for the late royal for eight years, said the interview in which the princess made her comment that “there were three of us in the marriage” ultimately led to her death in 1997.

More than two decades after the Panorama interview originally aired, there are fresh questions about it: Diana’s brother Earl Spencer has alleged the journalist Martin Bashir showed him fake bank statements that influenced his decision to introduce him to his sister.

The BBC has defended itself, claiming it has a note from the princess in which she says she was not influenced by any documents before choosing to do the programme.

But a new inquiry will go ahead, chaired by Lord Dyson, a former Supreme Court judge.

Martin Bashir interviews Princess Diana in Kensington Palace for the television program Panorama. (Photo by © Pool Photograph/Corbis/Corbis via Getty Images)
Princess Diana in Kensington Palace for Panorama in 1995. (Corbis via Getty Images)

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In a Channel 4 documentary, Jephson said 25 years later that he could see how the interview led ultimately to Diana’s death.

He said: “I think it’s easier now to see how the line from the Panorama interview leads pretty much straight to the night in Paris where Princess Diana was in the hands of people who were unable, properly, to look after her.”

At the time of the interview Diana and Charles had separated. The Queen urged them to divorce, which they did in 1996.

It meant Diana was stripped of her HRH status and lost her security. She died in a car crash in Paris in 1997.

The documents Earl Spencer was shown indicated that staff including Jephson and another royal household member were being paid to pass on information about Diana.

STAMFORD, UNITED KINGDOM - SEPTEMBER 10:  Princess Diana With Her Private Secretary Patrick Jephson At The Burghley Horse Trials Stamford, Lincolnshire  (Photo by Tim Graham Photo Library via Getty Images)
Princess Diana with her private secretary Patrick Jephson. (Tim Graham Photo Library)

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It compounded fears she is said to have had at the time that she was being spied on.

Jephson added: “What really shocks me now, and deeply saddens me thinking back to how I was 25 years ago, somebody had got to her with lies about me.

“It upsets me more than I can say, that quite possibly the princess died thinking that I had betrayed her.”

Lord Tony Hall, former BBC director general, has said he will assist the inquiry. He ran one in 1996 that found no fault with Bashir.

The BBC decided then that the graphic designer who was asked to make the fake bank statements would not work for the corporation again, despite being the person to raise concerns.

Bashir is said to be ill with complications from COVID-19 and unable to answer questions.

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A spokeswoman for the BBC said: “A lot has been written and broadcast about the Princess of Wales’s interview in recent weeks. It is important that we have a view of what happened based on the evidence of everyone involved. Clearly that has not yet been able to happen.

“But to be absolutely clear, the BBC is determined to get to the truth of what happened. That’s why we have appointed Lord Dyson to lead a fully independent investigation.

“It is vital that everyone with information shares that with Lord Dyson, so that he can investigate thoroughly and draw his conclusions having heard all the evidence.”

The documentary aired on Channel 4 on Monday, 30 November.